Chaos in the Brickyard

This week Massive Science published a special story I have been drawing for them over the holidays: Chaos in the Brickyard, a comic based on an allegorical/metaphorical story published by Bernard K. Forscher as a letter to Science in 1963. If you have been following me, you know how much I LOVE metaphors and I always loved this one in particular because I think it captures in a clear and accessible way (although extremely simplified) the process of scientific research, which from the outside may often seem like an obscure, almost mystical, endeavour.


I have been fascinated with this story for many years, since I have first read about it (I think it was in the excellent The Trouble With Science by Robin Dunbar). However, in the past few years, because of my work as a science communicator researcher at the Center for Science and Society I have become increasingly interested in the history and philosophy of science and the fundamental questions of what exactly is this thing called ‘Science’?

The letter does not provide answers (if you are looking for those I strongly recommend Real Science by John Ziman) but illustrates the important distinction between data collection and theory building, and what happens when this distinction is lost.


I think this is an important reminder in a world increasingly dominated by Big Tech and Big Data, which seems to value volume of research more than novelty or depth, often confusing ‘predictions’ with ‘explanations’, constantly challenging and undermining the value of the Humanities. I could rant about all of these things for hours… but I prefer to tell stories instead of giving lectures, hoping that they will be passed down the generations and spark a wider debate. So, please, go ahead and read it!


PS: also, if you enjoy allegories about science, On Exactitude In Science by Jorge Luis Borges is one of my all-times favorites (maybe the subject of a future comic?)


Sotto il sole giaguaro

Hi all, I hope your 2016 is going well. Mine started under the sun of Mexico, where I’m spending a whole month relaxing, reading and working on my next book about the science of sensory perception. Amongst the things I am reading there is a collection of short stories by Italo Calvino Sotto Il Sole Giaguaro. A friend first recommended it to me because the titular story is settled in Mexico but I then discovered that also the Calvino stories were meant to be part of a book on the 5 senses (unfortunately he died before writing the stories on touch and vision). Galvanised by this coincidence I decided to start the year with a little illustration based on the story about taste. It is about a troubled couple which, while travelling in Mexico, develops a strange obsession about food and its role in ancient Aztec rituals…

Sotto Il Sole Giaguaro Farinella after Calvino

Here is a little excerpt from the original story (sorry English-speaking folks, you can look up the translation if you want: Under the Jaguar Sun):

“Non Mangi?” mi chiese Olivia che sembrava concentrata solo nel gustare il suo piatto ed era invece come al solito atttentissima, mentre io ero rimasto assorto guardandola. Era la sensazione dei suoi denti nella mia carne che stavo immaginando, e sentivo la sua lingua sollevarmi contro la volta del palato, avvolgermi di saliva, poi spingermi sotto la punta dei canini. Ero seduto li davanti a lei ma allo stesso tempo mi pareva che una parte di me, o tutto me stesso, fossi contenuto nella sua bocca, stritolato, dilaniato fibra a fibra. Situazione non completamente passiva in quanto mentre venivo masticato da lei sentivo anche che agivo su di lei, le trasmettevo sensazioni che si propagavano dalle papille della bocca per tutto il corpo, che ogni sua vibrazione ero io a provocarla: era un rapporto reciproco e completo che ci coinvolgeva e travolgeva.



A Love Song

I always wanted to experiment with webcomics and since I discovered the presentation software Prezi I thought it could be a good way to do it. This year I finally decided to give it a try and started working on a Prezi version of the famous T.S.Eliot poem: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (you can listen to the original, read by Eliot himself). This kind of adaptations are always dangerous but I preferred to work with an established text rather than my own story, in order to reduce the variables (as a scientist would say). In other words: if you don’t like it you can blame the technique – or my use of it – not the content. Also, I think that poems with their recursive structures and powerful images are very well suited to the format.

The result? Well, only you can judge (click on the picture to start the Prezi):

prufrock farinella prezi

PS: my personal opinion is that Prezi needs a few major tweaks to become a real tool for cartoonist but it definitely has some potential.